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Explaining Residency Application to Your Family: Get Support from IMG Agencies, Part 1

As an international medical graduate you are likely fairly aware of the long and arduous journey it takes to get the US clinical experience and nail down a great residency program in America. However, your family members may need the process explained to them in more detail.  

Today’s savvy medical graduates are investing in IMG agencies as a way to get ahead of the competition, get the best clinical experience, top LORs, and navigate the process with no hiccups. But since families are generally the ones who invest in IMG agencies for medical graduates, the value needs to be explained to them. And before they can recognize the value, they need to understand the process that IMGs go through to get medical residency placements in the US.

Therefore, this two-part article is intended to help educate the families that financially support their family members who are pursuing the US clinical experience. And while some of this information might be extremely basic, note that it is important for your family members to grasp if they are ever going to see why working with an IMG agency is so advantageous. 

Who is an IMG?

IMG stands for international medical graduate–a physician who earned a basic medical degree from a medical school situated outside the United States and Canada that isn’t accredited by a US body, the American Osteopathic Association or the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. The accreditation and location of the medical school (and not the citizenship of the physician) determines the IMG status. In other words, American citizens who attend medical schools outside of America are regarded as IMGs, and non-US citizens who graduated from an American-based medical school are not IMGs. 

Therefore, in order to be eligible to seek residency in America as an IMG, the above criteria must be taken into account. 

What is the ECFMG?

The Educational Commision for Foreign Medical Graduates was founded in 1956 to determine whether or not IMGs are prepared to enter ACGME-accredited residency programs to gain the US clinical experience. One must be certified by the ECFMG before taking the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or enter a graduate medical education program. 

ECFMG Certification Requirements and Application

IMGs are required to complete all the requirements to be certified, and after this point a standard ECFMG Certificate will be presented. After submitting the ECFMG certification, one can apply to take the exam. It is always wise to ensure eligibility by consulting the World Directory of Medical Schools. 

IMGs must then pass Step 1 and Step 2 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)–the same exams taken by American and Canadian graduates. Time limits do apply, and the information can be confusing. IMG agencies can play a big role in helping students navigate this process before moving into the stage where residency placement begins (several steps ahead). 

Here is a format that will be easier for your family to digest and understand:

Medical Science Examination

  • Pass Step 1 of the USMLE
  • Pass Step 2, clinical knowledge of the USMLE

Clinical Skills Examination

  • Pass Step 2 clinical skills of the USMLE

It is paramount that results will be readily available in time for IMGs to participate in the Match. This means taking Step 2 before December 31 of the previous Match year in which one is participating. IMGs are advised to schedule the exam before March of the year in which they plan to take the exam. 

The Process is Grueling, but Getting the US Clinical Experience Doesn’t Have to Be

It is important to show your family this process. This allows them to see all of the hard work you have invested, and justify the association with an IMG agency to ensure all that you get the best US clinical experience you can ever achieve with sterling LORs to help advance you along your career journey.

Read Part 2 of this article with your family to continue the learning process.